My family does not belong to a church, cult or club. We are not atheists and we are not nihilists. We may be agnostic but we’re not willing to commit to the definition. We definitely believe in fate and we believe in the Universe. If coincidence coincides with either of the former two, then we believe in coincidence. Oh yeah, were animists too.
Why does this matter? Because, life is hard. We have to make choices and sometimes the choices paralyze us with their infinite amount of outcomes. Your belief system gives you the zeros and ones for your decision making circuitry. Which brings me to Mr. Bean. Mr. Bean, the character conceived and played by British actor Rowan Atkinson is contemporary Charlie Chaplin, his foibles acted out in pantomime. Recently, Mr. Bean helped tip the balance in a decision I needed to make.
Here’s the backstory: I was laid off in November. My husband is at a start up oil & gas company and is working for free until they get financing. There is no guarantee they will get financing. We are living off my severance. For a smart, sensible person, spending money on fancy trips, new cars or new clothes would seem a foolhardy scheme. My husband and I are very sensible people and I am the spendthrift in our family. BUT, my sister and her husband and son are going to France in June. They live in Perth, Australia and my sister is finishing her articles in 6 weeks. My brother-in-law is a native of Marseille and he will be visiting his family and taking his son, the history buff, to various WWII historical sites. He used to be a tour guide; he loves organizing and touring around and he and his Marseille family would be very excited for us to visit. I made a trip when I was 19 and my then future brother-in-law and his family were amazing hosts. I have also not seen my sister or my nephew for more than two years. I would be using our savings to go to France with my 8 year old and 3 year old (she turns 3 in May). Going to France is insane right? Except, the Universe started whispering in my ear.
It started with a documentary about the Barkley Marathon. It is considered one of the world’s most difficult marathons and is based in Wartburg,Tennessee. Only 16 people have finished since its inception in 1986. The year of filming, 3 people finished. What was particularly astonishing was the final finisher, Jared Campbell, stumbled to the finish with only 18 minutes to spare before the qualifying 60 hours ended. It was a mind boggling accomplishment for a him, revealing in interview clips he had embarked on a dramatic life change several years ago brought about by the simultaneous death of his father and a ten year relationship. He had been raised to make safe choices and wait until after the house, career and kids before taking those long planned for adventures. But, the premature death of his own father one year before retirement crystallized his understanding of the folly of waiting. Life isn’t just too short, it’s not guaranteed.
The following day, I was chatting with the Moms in front of the school. Spring break was starting in a couple of days and we were all sharing our plans. Everyone has been affected in some way by the recession. We all agreed we were staying home for the break but also considering if we should plan any trips for the year or if the expenditure was a bad idea. One mother piped up, ” You can’t wait on these things. I just had a friend die of brain cancer. She was my age with children. I have another friend with brain cancer. She might not live another year.” Damn. The Universe was starting to talk louder now.
I was starting to look for flights at this point and my husband caught on with my sudden desire to brush up on French vocabulary. “J’aime le vin et fromage.” Thank you Translator App. My sensible husband was annoyed and slightly hostile to the idea but we’ve been together 12 years now so he also knew by the look in my eyes that it was probably going to happen. This is how it works: I let him try to talk me out of something, essentially using him to help me make decisions while considering all the cons and eliminating emotional bias. We go through this for several days and if I waffle or give in, then I wasn’t really that set on the idea or I realize it was a bad idea after all. If I dig in my heels, then my husband knows it is important and and we proceed at that point. It helps I’m pragmatic and frugal and rarely make frivolous decisions. I did buy an antique armoire once on impulse that took up a third of the bedroom floor space and wasn’t deep enough to hold any hangers rendering it essentially useless. I eventually sold it at a loss of $400. It terms of life time fails, that armoire still ranks #1.
Eventually, the Universe brought in Mr. Bean. The last night of school is family movie night. Picking a PG movie that the kids and adults will both like is a feat in of itself. I hate Disney (actually, I don’t hate Disney, I just can’t handle the emotionally draining moments of death – someone always dies) and I can tolerate Pixar but really, the kids wind up watching a lot of documentaries. My son has knowledge of extremely esoteric subject matter. Last night, only 2 minutes into our search on Netflix, there was an Aha! and Mr. Bean’s Holiday was chosen. I had never watched it before, didn’t even bother reading the premise but I knew Mr. Bean wouldn’t swear or shoot anyone. And guess what? Mr. Bean wins a holiday….to the south of France. There is landscape porn throughout the whole movie and two times my toddler yelled out, “I want to go there!” Okay, Universe. I get it.
So, the travel agent is starting to look for flights. My husband said it was okay (but he will have to work -and live like a bachelor for three weeks). If all goes well, we leave May 28th. And if coincidence has anything to do with it, I’ll see Rowan Atkinson running by in a Marseille marathon, right where he should be.